Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) usually come across as a nuisance when they interfere with your planned flight, though the real pain comes if you inadvertently clip the edge or penetrate one. Pilots with the best of intentions continue to find themselves in the uncomfortable situation of being interrogated by secret service agents on the ground after unknowingly flying through one. So how do you make sure this never happens to you?
The best way to get the most up to date information still requires you to touch base with Flight Service, either using an online/app briefing tool or over the phone. Even with the detailed information from the briefing, many times the information isn’t practical to use since that data isn’t visually presented alongside your route of flight, weather or terrain.
This is where supplementing this information with one of the aviation iPad apps can help. You can quickly enter a flight plan and see if your route approaches the boundaries of the TFR, and use the touch-planning features to easily modify your route to stay clear of the restrictions. Here’s how to do it using today’s popular aviation apps.
When viewing the Maps section in the ForFlight Mobile app, select the map layers option at the top left of the screen. Here you can select various weather overlays, including an option for TFRs. With TFRs selected, you’ll see both yellow and red shaded rings on the map, indicating the location of the TFRs. Yellow rings indicate future TFRs that go into effect more than 24 hours from the current time, and the red rings indicate TFRs that are either currently active or will be active in the next 24 hours. You can tap anywhere in the ring to see the TFR details in plain English, including TFR type, altitudes, and effective times displayed in your current time zone. A good technique to use here is to simultaneously display the TFR and weather radar overlays, which is very helpful for route planning.
ForeFlight goes one step further with TFRs and also visually displays restrictions that are in effect for large sporting events, which are for stadiums with a seating capacity of over 30,000 people and last from one hour before to one hour after the event end. Tapping on one of these small TFRs on the map provides more information about the event too, so there’s no confusion about the reason for the restriction.
When in the air, if you’re flying with a Stratus ADS-B receiver or SXAR1 SiriusXM satellite weather receiver, this TFR information will continue to be updated on the moving map. It’s unlikely that a TFR will pop up from the short period of time from your briefing to takeoff, but it provides a good piece of mind that you’re in the clear while en route. Make it a point to check that your ForeFlight TFR alerts are enabled too, which will provide visual and aural messages if you get too close to one in flight.
You can also view TFRs directly from the Airports page in ForeFlight. After pulling up an airport, tap the NOTAMs button in the middle of the screen. Here you’ll see NOTAMs sorted into 4 categories: Airport, Obstacle, TFR & ARTCC. One thing we’ve noticed here is that TFRs will appear in both the Airport and TFR grouping, so get in the habit of checking all the categories during preflight to get complete information. Full TFR information will also be displayed in the Adverse Conditions section when retrieving a full weather briefing in the app (from the Flights tab).
The Garmin Pilot app offers options similar to ForeFlight, where you can display the TFR boundaries directly on the map to see how they’ll affect your routing. To turn them on, select the map overlay button at the bottom left of the screen, and select TFR. Once displayed, you can tap them to get TFR type, altitude and effective times. Like with ForeFlight, the app displays all the TFR varieties, including those for large sporting events.
To look for TFRs affecting individual airports, select the Airport Info page from the Home button at the top left of the screen. After entering an airport, select NOTAMs from the list at the left of the screen. You’ll have to scroll to the bottom to see the most recent NOTAMs, and TFRs will be listed with the Airspace tag preceding the effective times. To get the full-text description of the TFR, you’ll need to view the airspace on the moving map or retrieve a weather briefing in the app.
WingX Pro automatically displays TFRs on the main moving map page with a red ring. Like the other two apps mentioned above, you can tap the TFR ring to get full details on the restriction to see how it will affect your planned flight.
WingX also offers a dedicated section in the app that displays all TFRs organized by state. You’ll find it helpful to select the Active and Pending TFR button at the bottom of the page to view only current TFRs and those that will go active within the next 24 hours.